DAF learning professionals get after transforming education at AETC symposium held at AU Published Sept. 5, 2023 By Phil Berube Air University Public Affairs MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Educators and learning professionals from across the Department of the Air Force were at Air University recently to “write, tell and hear” their stories of successes and challenges to advance force development. The Air Education and Training Command Learning Symposium held Aug. 22-24, 2023, and hosted at Air University, allowed the more than 70 attendees to get after one of the command’s stated goals: transforming the way Airmen and Guardians learn. “The symposium provided a convening and sharing space for Department of the Air Force personnel invested in learning to hear and share their stories of success and collectively address challenges,” said event host Dr. Wendy Walsh, AETC chief learning officer. “We are building the collective narrative to strengthen and advance competency development pathways to grow and sustain Airmen and Guardians to achieve mission success.” With a theme of “The Learning Story—Past, Present, Future—Writing, Telling, Understanding,” this year’s event was the continuation of a similar event held last year in San Antonio, Texas, home to Headquarters AETC. This year’s attendees took part in three working groups: Documentation, Telling and Hearing. The Documentation group explored how learning professionals have documented learning and how they currently convey progress made in developing learning systems and addressing challenges. The Telling group took a look at how effective organizational messaging has been in branding, incentivizing and conveying the value of learning. The Hearing group studied the various ways the DAF “learning story” is perceived and what, if any, mediums would improve and increase perception, awareness and understanding of the learning enterprise. Before attending both last year’s and this year’s events, an attendee said she felt that DAF learning professionals were too disconnected from each other, an issue that the symposium seems to have addressed. “We are trying to find solutions to challenges we face in our respective organizations that may have already been solved by another,” said Justeen Kincaid, chief of the academic branch for the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. “The symposiums have created this space where we can come together and talk about these problems or successes. It has helped me create a more-robust network of other educators to call and ask, ‘Hey, have you seen this happen? What did you do to fix it?’ Now, I have other people I can lean on.” It's this process of building networks and connections and fostering collaboration within the learning professional community that will “inspire the advancement of human-centered, interdisciplinary and competency-based force development,” said Walsh. “We are building a community that connects research, operations and the classroom to facilitate measurable Airmen and Guardian learning as a critical means to successfully get after the AETC lines of effort and the Air Force’s six key fights,” she said.